As former Vice President Mike Pence weighs his future in politics – laying the groundwork for a possible presidential campaign in 2024 and supporting Republican candidates who face reelection next fall – former President Donald Trump said Pence is “mortally wounded” inside the GOP.
Video posted to social media shows Trump, who was speaking at a closed press event with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly over the weekend, telling a crowd that Pence “has been very badly hurt” by his commitment on January 6 to allow congressional certification of the 2020 election results.
“I was disappointed in one thing, but it was a big thing. Mike should have sent those crooked votes back to the legislatures and you would have had a different result in the election, in my opinion,” the former President told an audience on Saturday as part of O’Reilly’s “History Tour” in Sunrise, Florida.
Pence ultimately rejected pleas from Trump and his top allies to halt certification of Joe Biden’s victory by the House and Senate in January, hours after he was forced to take shelter at a secure location inside the US Capitol while a mob of Trump supporters stormed the building – with some chanting “Hang Mike Pence” as they breached security barriers.
“I think Mike has been very badly hurt by what took place in respect to January 6,” Trump said. “I think he’s been mortally wounded, frankly, because I see the reaction he’s getting from people.”
The former vice president has fueled rumors about his interest in a 2024 presidential bid with several visits to Iowa and New Hampshire this year. As recently as last week, Pence traveled to the first-in-the-nation primary state to speak to a local Republican woman’s group and greet GOP donors at a fundraiser for New Hampshire state senators. While appearing at an event hosted by the conservative group Heritage Action, Pence said he drew inspiration from scripture in deciding how to approach January 6.
“I like that Bible verse that says, ‘He keeps his oath even when it hurts.’ I’d taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and I kept my oath that day,” Pence told the crowd.
In addition to visiting early voting states, Pence has quietly been assembling a campaign-in-waiting if he decides to run for president following next year’s midterm elections – a decision he claims he and his wife, Karen, have yet to make. The former vice president has not explicitly ruled out a bid for the White House if Trump decides to mount his own, which would set up a primary in which the former vice president and president would be competing against each other.
For his part, Trump appeared to indicate on Saturday that he would not consider keeping Pence on his ticket if he were to run again.
“I don’t love this question because there are a lot of them,” Trump said of potential running mates, adding that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “would be good.”
A spokesperson for Pence did not immediately respond to a request for comment.